HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND
Nature’s Pleasures Mean
Fun in the Sun for Everyone
By Barbara Barton Sloane

Plumes of smoke rose heavenward from the top of Mauna Loa.  Because this is one of Hawaii’s very active volcanoes, we were kept several hundred yards away from the site.  Yet, even from a distance, the power and majesty of Mauna Loa was awesome. 

Much about my recent trip to Hawaii’s Big Island was awe-inspiring.  Here was everything one expects to find: tropical paradise, enveloping warmth, glistening blue sea and luxurious resorts. 

Badly in need of some serious R&R, I was delighted to find that the island also offered a perfect destination for me to reconnect with nature – and with myself.  Here I found a natural sanctuary to restore the soul and discovered plenty of family activities to keep little ones engaged and happy. 

CLIMATIC VARIANCE

On the Big Island, miles upon miles of untouched land contribute to its natural beauty.  It’s a place of extremes – from fiery volcanoes to snow-capped mountain peaks, from acres of green pasturelands to vast ebony lava deserts, and from tropical rainforests and verdant valleys to white, gold, black and even green sand beaches. 
Out of 13 climatic regions on the planet, this island has all but two, Artic and Saharan.  Whatever climate you’re craving, you’re sure to find it here.

For centuries, native Hawaiians have revered nature’s bounty from mauka to makai (mountain to sea) and have developed the powerful healing art of Lomi Lomi massage using native plants in age-old practices and encouraging soul-searching through self-awareness and forgiveness. 

Dale Silva, co-founder of the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Association says “without aloha – without love – for oneself, for the environment, for each other, how can you begin to heal?  It all starts with aloha.”  The aloha spirit is abundant here.  You feel it in the sunshine that warms the sand beneath your feet, you see it in the clear ocean water, and you hear it in the gentle rain that falls in the forest.

The Big Island is big on families.  There’s lots of things to do and even more to see for adults and kids alike, with variety as endless as the terrain.

To explore waterfalls of the Hamakua coast and the Kilauea volcano, stay on the Hilo side of the island. The most famous of the Big Island’s waterfalls is Akaka Falls, and its direct URL is www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/index.cfm?park_id=2 .

FOR KIDS

Move over to the Kona on the West Coast for sun and fun on the beach.  One very special family-friendly beach is Pauoa Beach at the Fairmont Orchid Resort, a perfect, protected, white sand cove.  One of the best reasons to choose a family vacation on Hawaii is that children are highly valued in this island’s culture.  The word 'ohana means family and the word keiki means children, words you may hear nearly as often as aloha during your stay.  Keiki are warmly welcomed here.

Children enjoy exploring new things and numerous hiking trails will take your family to ancient heiau (temples) or past flooded fields where taro, the Hawaiian staple, is still grown as it was hundreds of years ago. Two hiking trails which are moderate in difficulty and can be done by kids six and up: Kilauea Iki at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which takes about two hours to complete, and Akaka Falls Hike at Akaka Falls State Park, which even toddlers can walk.

NATURAL WONDERS

There are countless species of marine life cavorting in the waters of Hawaii’s Big Island and you’ll see lots of them while snorkeling.  Younger kids enjoy exploring the island’s tide pools brimming with crabs, snails, barnacles, mussels and small fish.  Anaehoomalu Bay at the Waikoloa Beach Resort has excellent tidepools and fishponds which are great fun to explore; check out also the tidepools along Hilo’s Keaukaha shoreline.
 
If you visit during the winter months, the most famous marine life, the playful humpback whale, can be spotted just off-shore.

Want to explore the new and different?  Found nowhere but on the Big Island, in Hawaii’s Volcano National Park you’ll see a real active volcano which is a lot more thrilling than a theme park volcano and a lot hotter!

On family vacations, there are, of course, adults-only activities like a morning of golf or a romantic candle-lit dinner and happily most of the resorts here offer programs for children that are much richer than just baby-sitting, including beach excursions, crafts, hiking, tennis, games and hula lessons.

There’s something to thrill and charm every age. Hawaii is a paradise, pure and simple.  It’s impossible to list all that makes this island special, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to a few of my favorite things:

*A wake-up call by tropical birds
*Not having to wikiwiki (hurry-hurry)
*Snorkeling with amazing underwater life
*A gentle rain – quickly followed by more sunshine
*Your nightcap: the soothing sound of the ocean
*The Hawaiian motto: Ho’okahi no la o ka malihini: A stranger only for a day.

Hawaiians have a saying: I mohala no ka lehua I k eke’ ekehi’ia e ka ua.  Easy for them to say, but the meaning is simple and sweet: The lehua blossom unfolds when the rains tread on it.  During my stay on the Big Island, I did, indeed, experience the warm, gentle rain.  I relaxed, I rested, I unfolded.  And yes, it was great!
Oh, almost forgot.  There is one thing I definitely do not like about Hawaii: Leaving.

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NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES:

*Big Island Visitors Bureau -  www.bigisland.org  

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